In what appeared to be part of a major propaganda drive, the military authorities here accused the Central Intelligence Agency today of manipulating the independent trade union federation Solidarity and conducting extensive espionage operations against Poland.
The allegations of U.S. undercover activity were made at an unprecedented press conference here for foreign journalists by a senior official in Polish counterintelligence, Col. Zbigniew Wislocki. At the same time, the state television started screening a five-part series devoted to documentation of alleged American espionage in Poland.
Wislocki said the CIA had attempted for many years to recruit Polish citizens in sensitive positions as informers and has stepped up its activities since Solidarity's emergence in August 1980. He named several alleged CIA agents who had served under diplomatic cover either in Warsaw or in other foreign capitals.
Foreign journalists were shown a number of special devices that allegedly were used by U.S. intelligence operatives in Poland. The exhibits included codes, radio receivers, pellets of invisible ink (hidden in the handle of a shaving brush) and secret instructions to agents written on special paper that would dissolve in water.
In Washington, a State Department spokesmen dismissed the Polish allegations as "ridiculous," and said that it was U.S. policy not to respond to espionage charges.
The Polish charges appeared aimed in part at counteracting what is seen by officials here as an American propaganda campaign against Poland following the introduction of martial law last month. The officially controlled press already has taken President Reagan to task for his announcement of "a day of solidarity with Poland" on Jan. 30 and the television spectacular, "Let Poland Be Poland," planned for the following day.
Western analysts believe that the Polish campaign also could represent an attempt to prove a link between the CIA and Solidarity. The apparent aim is to show that, acting under instructions from the West, alleged extremists in the union movement planned to dismantle socialism in Poland and seize power.
Asked to what extent Solidarity had been influenced by the CIA, Wislocki said the union had been assigned a special role in U.S. scenarios for subversion in Poland.
"One can't say that the CIA shaped all Solidarity's activities. But it is the case that the extremist activities of Solidarity--those that aimed at anarchy and the disruption of the state--were to a large extent the result of American intelligence operations," he said.
Western diplomats here recalled that, following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, similar attempts were made to prove an imminent threat to the Soviet Bloc by linking Western intelligence services and Czechoslovak reformists.
The evidence produced by Wislocki to support his claim appears to be inconclusive. It was based on a mixture of allegations about past U.S. intelligence activities against Poland dating back many years and details of alleged contacts between American diplomats stationed in Warsaw and political dissidents.
All this has been wrapped into a skillfully packaged, five-part television series entitled "Who Is Who," which was shown at today's press conference. The first episode in the series, which was screened publicly last night, described contacts between a former third secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, Leslie Sternberg, and the right-wing Polish dissident group KPN.
Sternberg was shown being questioned by police after being stopped in a car that was found to contain stacks of banned KPN literature. Subtitles explained that the film had been taken by police. Against a background of dramatic music, a commentator said Sternberg had been recalled from Poland immediately following the incident in March last year.
The commentator said the U.S. diplomat had asked her KPN contacts to provide details of names and private addresses of members of the security police.
In Washington, the State Department said it was aware that Sternberg had been cited by Polish authorities in connection with the espionage allegations but said it had no official word yet about accusations about other officials named by the Poles.
In response to questions about Sternberg, a department spokesman said: "We do not comment on allegations of this sort." The spokesman added that Sternberg served in the Warsaw embassy from 1979 to 1981, is currently assigned as an economic officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn and is a Foreign Service officer in good standing.
The final film in the series said a second secretary in the embassy who allegedly worked for the CIA, Michael Anderson, had been involved in attempting to smuggle out of Poland an appeal by the dissident Committee for Social Self-Defense, known as KOR. He, too, left the country shortly afterward, according to the film's account.
In between there were shots of what appeared to be a classic espionage drop involving a second secretary in the embassy's political section, Peter Burke, who was seen picking up a stone from a field. The stone, which previously had been checked by Polish intelligence, allegedly was found to contain microfilm and secret instructions.
Interviewed by police, Burke refused to answer questions and would only say, "I am an American diplomat." The incident occurred in late 1979.
Burke's alleged contact was a Polish military communications officer, Zenon Celegrat, who later was sentenced to prison for 25 years. During his interrogation, he said he had been recruited to work for the CIA while serving with a United Nations observer force in South Vietnam.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Stephen Dubrow, refused to comment on the Polish allegations but confirmed that Sternberg, Burke and Anderson all had been stationed in Warsaw during the past three years.
Wislocki read out a list of other alleged CIA agents whom he accused of attempting to recruit Polish citizens as spies for the United States. In most cases, the dates of the alleged incidents were not given.
"The persons named appear to have been selected at random from among members of the U.S. Foreign Service serving in posts all around the world, and in at least one case, a post that does not even exist," a State Department spokesman said. "Nonetheless, it is the policy of the U.S. government not to respond to this kind of ridiculous allegation."
Another senior Polish official told the news conference that the trial of Bogdan Walewski, a senior Polish Foreign Ministry official who has been accused of spying for the United States, will open here shortly.
A commentary in today's issue of the Army newspaper, Zolnierz Wolnosci, accused President Reagan of "attempting to do from the outside what Solidarity extremists have failed to do from the inside."